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Faux Better or Faux Worse?

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The fur debate is one of the most divisive issues in the fashion industry, with many now opting for more ethically accepted faux-fur garments rather than traditional animal skins.  

Nevertheless, at a time when the environmental impact of the global fashion industry is under such intense scrutiny, faux fur can't be ignored; here, contributor Charli takes a look at the realities of faux-fur production and suggests a way that we can continue to get our fashion fix without leaving a trail of fluffy destruction in our wake...

When Samantha Jones wore a fur coat to NYFW in the Sex and the City movie, many viewers- even her biggest fans- probably struggled to feel sorry for her; in the 21st-century, increasing awareness of the realities of the fur industry has prompted many to take a stand and opt solely for fur-free fashion.  


And, so far, finding such fashion hasn't been too tricky; luxury and high-street retailers alike have reacted to this changing mindset and in the past couple of years there has been a palpable change- from Gucci to ASOS, and London Fashion Week in between.  Technological innovation has meant that we can achieve the warmth and protection formerly afforded to us solely by animal hides completely synthetically and there is now a huge offering of clothing and accessories that have the look and feel of real fur without any of the damage. Or so we thought...

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Grab your girls...we're heading out Shop After Hours on site rn #missguided

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Stella McCartney, known for her zero-tolerance stance on real fur, identifies that even faux-fur is not 100% environmentally-sound given that "the product itself is non-biodegradable, made from either acrylic, polyester, wool or mohair".  A quick search highlights the prominence of acrylic and polyester in the fast-fashion faux-fur coats popular with students: of three randomly selected on Missguided- one yellow, one blue, and one natural- all are 100% modacrylic and polyester.  I thought that as the price point increased, the materials used would vary slightly and perhaps embrace more sustainable resources, but even this one found on ASOS and five times the price of the Missguided options is composed of exactly the same materials.  It's worth mentioning here that the objective of this article is not to vilify brands for making and selling faux-fur products, it is just to highlight that these garments are not always guilt-free, ethical alternatives so that we as consumers can begin to make better-informed choices.  

As mentioned, one of the main concerns surrounding the strong demand for faux fur is the materials used for its production and James Conca, an energy and environment specialist, has identified some of the most shocking facts: the polyester fibre so often used to manufacture faux fur requires almost 70 million barrels of oil per year to produce and over 200 years to decompose.  What's more, cheap synthetic fibres also emit the gas N20 which is about 310 times more potent and damaging than CO2, whilst the plastic microfibres from our synthetic clothing that enter the water supply when we carry out everyday tasks like washing them account for 85% of the manmade material found along shorelines, polluting both our salt and freshwater supplies and threatening wildlife of all kinds.  Suddenly, the big fur debate has become a lot more complicated.  


Maxine Bédat, CEO and co-founder of sustainable fashion brand Zady, stated that "the choice is ultimately ours. We can vote at the ballot box for strong climate measures and vote at the cash register for clean clothes”.  This is a wonderful sentiment but, for many students, voting "at the cash register" isn't easy, especially when the most sustainable options tend to also be the most expensive.  Stella McCartney, for example, has invested time and resources into developing an ethical alternative to fur, whilst House of Fluff aims to produce high-quality garments sustainably, but for those who can barely afford to pay for heating in the winter these clothes are simply not an option.  Instead, one way to quench our thirst for all things furry could be to make more of an effort to buy second-hand- be that real or faux fur.  In doing so, we are not contributing towards or creating a market for cruel or environmentally unsustainable practices, but rather diverting pre-loved garments from a landfill into our wardrobes.  At the time of writing this, I searched on Vinted just out of interest to see what was out there and found over 500 listings under "fur coats and jackets" (real or faux)- that's enough for every fashion contributor at The National Student to get their hands on seven each! 

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The #coat everyone loves to shoot thanks @cakemagazine @itsalimcnally #fakefur #fauxfur #vegan #ethicalfashion

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There is no doubt in my mind that the effort that has gone into developing an alternative to fur stemmed from a good place; now that it is not necessary for warmth and protection, many of us simply don't want animals to die for the sake of fashion, and the faux-fur industry initially provided a substitute for that.

Nevertheless, with the knowledge we now have about the effects of synthetic fibre production, we can't continue to paint synthetic faux-fur as a wholly ethical option; when it comes to sustainable fashion, we mustn't just question who made our clothes, but also what.

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